langston presley – the genius who almost was

“I just wanna be somebody.”

I just wanna be… a rockstar. No, too ambitious. Maybe a low-key SoundCloud artist that only true hiphop heads know.

15 – 20k followers.
Mmm… 5 – 10k.

If only somebody would notice. Look my way.
I am so close, yet so far. Talented, but not quite enough.

I walk across the platform to the edge, past the yellow paint and caution signs. I stare into the gaping darkness ahead of me. I think of jumping. Just fantasize the idea.

Where am I going?

I am here, just waiting. Too much waiting.
So close.

Then the wind picks up and I hear a distant howling in the tunnel in front of me. It picks up and the howling becomes metallic, growing louder and louder, closer and closer, and the wind blows my overgrown hair aside.

I close my eyes, and jump on.

Post-grad life is riding a crowded subway train that only goes one way, and the lights are turned off. The passengers hardly talk to each other, and when they do, they somehow convince each other that everything is fine, even though we are all begging the same question – “Where are we going?”

When does it stop?

I lean my forehead against the glass and watch the florescent signs flash past me. The train sways side to side and groans.

I just wanna be somebody.
I just wanna be… a renowned short-story writer with at least one Ted Talk under his belt. Or Moth StorySlam winner.

No, too ambitious. Maybe an underground Medium blogger with 10k followers. Mmm… 5k.

So close, yet so far.

But what about low-key, hip SoundCloud producer?
School taught me few things, but multitasking was not one of them. I have tunnel vision, like subway conductors.

I just wanna be a writer,
but also a musician,
that I’m afraid that I will be neither.

That I will be nobody.

I jump off the train.

The light is blinding, so I squint as I step out into the arid LA-summer heat and frantic, fast-pace LA pedestrian traffic. Even the pedestrians have sidewalk-rage here.

I am weaving, and from the clamor of sirens, angry drivers, and stereos attached to bikes, he calls out to me.

“Young man! How you doin’ today?”

I slam the brakes, and look in his direction. Middle-aged, clothed in tatters, cigarette in mouth.

“Doin’ alright. How bout yourself?”

I shake his hand; his skin is wrinkled and cracked.

“Alright. Can’t complain, ya know?
About to buy me some more cigarettes.”

“Fosho.”

“Whatchu up to? You a working man or what?

“I uh – I just graduated”, I deflect.

“Ah graduated, hah! You got plans?”

I did at some point, but I don’t know anymore.

“Yeah uh, I wanna be… a writer. I think.”

“Writer! Okay, I write stuff, too.”

“Oh yeah? Like what?”

“Oh, just whatever inspires me. You just have to channel that inner-energy, you know, that inner…”

He puts his head over his heart. Gives an ugly face, like when musicians play jazz.

“…of ribbiting passion and…”  – he contorts his face again – “…You feel me?”

“Uhh… yeah. Sure, man.”

“Here, I wanna show you something. You got a pen on you? You know, true writers keep a pen on them at all times.”

I feel around in my bag and pull it out.

“You got paper?”

I feel around again and hand him my journal.

“Haha shit, you are a writer!”

“You got time?”

I glance at my phone. I think about the overpriced espresso drink with my name on it, waiting for me just 6 blocks away.

I shrug.

“Yeah. I got time.”

“Give me a topic.”

“What?”

“Just give me a topic, it can be anything.”

“Uhm… outer space.”

“Space! Mkay, I can do that.”

He scribbles away, transcribing his thoughts as they come, pausing ever-so-often to mutter ideas out loud.

“Orion belt… cycle of.. captivated, eye-boggling wonders, because – execute patriotic… new found life.”

Sounds promising. He stops and puts down his pen.

“See, take a look.”

I read his piece. It almost makes sense.

Almost.

“See I’m a writer, but really, it’s all just in here.”

He puts his hand on my chest now.

“You a writer, too. And true writers already have it inside… that ribbiting passion… that nature of ribbiting..”

“…Riveting?”

“Here, gimme the pen.”

More scribbling and muttering. I can’t stop staring at him, like he’s some mix between mad scientist and mystical pokemon creature. He finishes another paragraph-long sentence.

“Check this: Black holes!! – who knows, can say?”, he recites to me proudly. “Bottom line it is, amazing with motomic essentials – and this part is important, listen here – motomic essentials that brings nature into a *reality*.”

What the hell is motomic essentials?, I’m wondering.

But instead, I just say, “Whoa…”

So close to making sense, yet so far. I don’t know whether to disagree with him or simply be fascinated by him.

“And that’s the thing – nature to a reality…”

He picks up the pen and he is off again.
The more he writes, the deeper we descend into his mind.

“Reality factual… brings out of a.. beehive – no, not a think, not a thought… however a working grade.. of a solution… yeah, solution. That’s it.”

This goes on for another 30 minutes. I get tired of standing but I cannot leave now because there’s something curious about this man. Like there’s some hidden treasure inside and I want to be the one to find it.

Like despite his clear lack of coherent thought, deep down inside, he just might actually be a writer. And I, his audience, am hooked. I am captivated.

I am… ribbited.

He looks up from my journal and shouts, “HEY BENNY!”

Benny looks over at us and quickly looks away.

“AY! Benny!! How you doin’?!”

Benny, who has a lady friend walking closely beside him, looks clearly embarrassed and walks faster.

“Let’s go say hi to my friend”, he says enthusiastically.

He takes my journal and pen, and I follow behind.

“Hey Benny, come over here! I’m doin’ a writing class right now. Come on!”

Benny gives him a glare and says through clenched teeth, “Not now, man…”

“Ahh okay. Benny on a date, I’ll teach him later haha… Where was I…?”

“Motomic essentials??”

“Ah yes, of course, motomic essentials – ”

He picks up the pen and our lesson continues.

“Inside that space that journey… above that footprint in the sky.. is unknown, however…”

He mutters, writes, puts down the pen, picks it back up, mutters some more, and I lean in to try to catch everything. Our elbows touching, I catch a whiff of alcohol from my teacher’s breath. I lean closer anyways.

On and on he goes, often taking detours in thought, like weaving through LA traffic, as if his mind is one long run-on sentence. He talks just like he writes – mostly illegible, but full of resolve and conviction. Things I haven’t had much of in the recent post-grad wake.

Though he holds wild notions and his mind seems fragmented, like broken liquor bottles, he speaks with unapologetic passion that even incarceration, addiction, and homelessness could not shake. And I have an ear for that kind of passion.

So I let him ramble. I figure I can’t do much for the man right now, but I can listen to him and say, “I believe you.”

“You went to college, yeah? You show this to a college professor, and damn, they’re gonna flip. Ha! They won’t be ready. This – ”

he points to my journal.

“– This is gonna change the world.”

I feel like a parent, looking down at a child’s sloppy crayon drawing.

“Yeah, man. I think so, too.”

30 minutes stretches to an hour and one hour quickly bends into two. I figure out by now that if I let him, two hours can easily turn into four. So I gently hint to him that I should probably get going.

“It’s been an honor, man. Thanks for sharing all that. Oh, I didn’t catch your name.”

“Ah yes, gimme that pen again, let me sign it.”

In elaborate cursive lettering, he graces my journal with his insignia.

“Langston. Langston Presley.”

“Justin. Justin Lee.”

We shake hands, and closing words quickly turns into more writing, a personal dedication, another signature, and a P.S. note. Some final ribbiting thoughts.

We finally part ways.

I’m walking the six blocks towards my 4.5 star coffeeshop, but my mind is already buzzed and racing. As I walk, this feeling of longing looms in and though it is not my own, it is close enough to tickle some nerves.

This feeling of “so close, yet so far”. Like I just listened to an almost-professor teach an almost-lecture with knowledge that was almost-groundbreaking.

“Cappuccino, please.”

“Can I get a name for the order?”

“Lang- …Langston.”

Langston Presley. I like saying it.. just the sound of it has a certain flair to it.

As if he is half-way one legend,
half-way another,
that he is neither.

So close, yet so far.
But something happened and his mind was shattered. Now, nobody bothers to look his way, and notice his potential. Or what used to be his potential. 0 followers.

I sit down with my drink and it’s hard to down. But I don’t think that it’s necessarily guilt – just this awareness that just a few blocks away is Skid Row, and it’s probably teemed with other almost-Whitney’s and almost-Hemingway’s.

I feel my muscle memory reminding me to open my laptop, check my SoundCloud, and work on my music.

But instead, I pick up my pen and write in my journal –

“Langston Presley, the genius who almost was.”

 

The following piece is what Langston wrote in my journal the day I met him

1983 the ineact (pirates of silicon valley) <–2–10–> They sometimes call when pieces never look the fit, however it work. No this is not a blessing, not of …

The orion belt next to a wirlwind on a cycle of captivated eye bogling wonders because we only understand the things seen not the things that can write and execute patriotic newfound (history) life. Expessions with minds that understand what science presents in a sum that brings enlightenment to a need from long ago problem with a thumbs up of loss.

“(Black holes)” who knows, can (or) say? Bottom line it is, amazing with motomic essentials that brings nature to a reality. Reality factual brings out of a beehive not a think not a thought however a working grade of a solution. Why (definition?) (a thought is only a sentence you tell yourself)(Does that work?) No. Look it up nothing is faulty with imagination than what brings us the conclusion and the ribbiting facts of what is inside that 1) black hole.

2) that persons mind (behavior) 3) does this count, thought, know thing thoughts are back to this a (thoughts definition) means a sentence you tell yourself. Inside that space that journey above that footprint the sky is unknown however a place that presents a high grade of what brings the galaxy of inlightment, wonders, to a new found glory that gives one space to fly, passionately, to roll with a rythym that brings ideas to a place that is not normal however inventions like persay the internet. my friend what is above in that start is life. bringing us to now. Just go.

Placed by this person who will execute a tale that illuminates immaculately introducing a new found journey of ribbiting history Justin. In space your future is not a thought it defines passion. I see you now glory by capturing the ride the pen or keyboard introduces to you, 

Looking forward to your journey.

-Langston Presley 

9/24/17 / Just do write it

In the shadows of one there is redemption, a new found “glory of life”
know this is the journey only you can bring a nature of production working the your stage into passionate equal rights to all.

-Langston Presley 

First fact.

On Hollywood and Normandie – Look at that wall.

gorgeous white couples

that one time i was almost cool

I am coming back to this coffeeshop.

I just spent an afternoon working on a track for a beat tape that I’m putting out in November. It’s called Innamission, and it’s kind of a big deal.

Not that it’s super good or anything, but I’ve never done anything like this before. Half the time, I don’t know what I’m doing, which is kind of a fantastic and terrifying feeling.

The barista mixes my drink,
I mix my drum samples,

– two artists, busy refining their respective crafts.

Half an hour passes, and he walks over to me.
“Hey man, I got a question for you.”

I pull out my earphones.
“Yeah, what’s up?”

“Do you make music?”

“Yes.. *ahem*, yes I do!”

I quickly fix my hair. And my posture.

“Nice, what type of music do you make?”

“So I’m really into hip hop and R&B – I’m making a beat tape right now.”

Whoa. I get to say that.

“Oh nice, man. That’s sick. Can I hear some of it?”

Mom’s spaghetti.

“Err yeah uhm sure! I’m not really done with this track yet so I’m not sure if it sounds good yet… Wanna listen?”

“Sure!”

I hand him the headphones quickly, attempting to hide my palms sweaty. Haven’t been this nervous since I don’t know.

I can’t hear what he’s hearing, but enough hours of staring at the same MIDI drum patterns, I know when the beat drops, just by looking at the tiny grids and colored blocks.

And when it does, I catch him nodding silently, at 86 BPM, in the corner of my peripherals.

“This is dope. I can totally hear this on SoundCloud.”

HELL YEAH IT IS, I scream out loud, my voice echoing off the cement walls of the coffeeshop.

“Thanks, man”, I respond timidly, way too quiet for him to hear through the earphones.

We small talk for a few minutes. The whole time, alls I’m thinking is,
plug the beat tape. Just plug it, dude.

But in walks a young and hip-looking, gorgeous white couple and I lose my chance.

“Gimme a minute, gotta take care of these guys.”

That’s okay. He’ll come back, and when he does, I’ll plug my beat tape. Maybe I’ll even plug my SoundCloud, I think to myself, ignoring the fact that there are only two songs on there, neither of which are very impressive.

Only he doesn’t come back. But more customers do come in. More gorgeous, hip, white couples.

His shift ends 20 minutes later, and so does my short-lived moment of almost-coolness.

“Nice talking with you, man. Hope to see you back here some time.”

I pound his fist.

Oh you will, barista friend. You will.